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Showing posts from November, 2007

Pine Grosbeak

One of the most exciting birds of late is the Pine Grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator, discovered by Matt Anderson back on November 21. The bird has been frequenting an area next to the Oak Openings Metropark in Lucas County, not far from Toledo. Displaying amazing site fidelity the likes of which we've not seen here before with this species - at least in modern times - it is still being found in this area. Many an Ohio birder has gotten their state or even life Pine Grosbeak because of Matt's find. And an amazing bit of birding skill it was to find this jumbo finch. The area in which it occurs is not exactly eye-catching, nor a spot that most birders would probably spend much time in.

I was fortunate enough to see the bird myself last Sunday. Shortly after arriving at the spot and joining several other birders in the stakeout, I heard the grosbeak calling not far off. A minute later it shot right over our heads and landed near the top of a tall Hackberry tree, offering us stellar v…

Sabine's Gull

Wow, an extraordinary number of unusual birds have been appearing of late, stimulating rarity fever amongst the masses. Matt Anderson's fantastic discovery of a Pine Grosbeak leads the list in terms of sensationalism - the last dates from 1987. This beak is nearly everyone's state Pine Grosbeak, of those who have been lucky enough to see it. I was one, and have some photos that I'll blog later.

Late hummingbirds are also appearing. One came to light today near Toledo, that appears to be our record late Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I got a call about another today at a Cincinnati-area feeder and will hopefully get photos soon. These late ones really need scrutinized closely, especially as most are females/immatures and often not readily separable from other similar species. Don't just assume Ruby-throated...

I also just received word of a very interesting Northern Saw-whet Owl that was captured at the Chillicothe banding station already sporting a band. This one has come a …

Butterfly Named for Ohioan

Check this out... Apparently having a butterfly named in one's honor does not come cheap. But, if that is what you desire and can pony up some serious bucks, might as well choose something showy like one of the oddly named owl-butterflies... Cassia's Owl-Butterfly, Opsiphanes cassiae. Not the species named for Mrs. Kitzmiller - read AP story below - but presumably somewhat similar.

Butterfly naming rights draw $40,800 bid; named to honor Ohio woman's memory The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona Published: 11.23.2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A butterfly species discovered in a Florida museum has a new name after an anonymous bidder paid $40,800 for naming rights in order to honor a woman who died in 1972.
The butterfly's common name will be the Minerva owl butterfly. It's being named after the late Margery Minerva Blythe Kitzmiller of Malvern, Ohio.
While the bidder's name was not disclosed, the payment was made on behalf of Kitzmiller's grandchildren.
The butterfly&…

Everything is Rare, Somewhere

One of the most abundant birds in Ohio and much of North America is the Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura. Hardly a soul over here would walk two steps out of their way to admire one. Not across the pond, though - read the following BBC blurb kindly sent along by Kathy Mock. DEFINITION: "Twitchers" is Brit-speak for rabid listers. You know, the type that would appear at Conneaut Harbor within two hours should a rarity like Horned Puffin appear there.

American dove attracts twitchers

The American mourning dove has caused a stir

A dove spotted only a handful of times in the British Isles has drawn dozens of bird watchers to North Uist.
The American mourning dove was first seen by Brian Rabbitts about three miles (4km) from where he previously saw one in 1999.
Wildlife guide Stephen Duffield said more than 100 twitchers had flocked to the Western Isles to see the bird.
The British Birds Rarities Committee said it was aware of the sighting and was awaiting a recording.

Fall Colors

I was able to spend some time in a remote, off-the-beaten path glen in the Hocking Hills today, and it was well worth the hike. Many of the trees still retained splendid colors, and mosses and lichens are at their crusty best at this season. Following are a few of the few hundred photos that I snapped.

Sandstone outcrops define this site. A rocky mesa juts above the surrounding valleys, and the core rocks are fractured into crazy slump blocks. In places, it is like a rocky maze of narrow tunnels, each filled with a bed of newly fallen leaves.
The leaves still impressed. The orange-red mist is the foliage of Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum, our only tree in the heath family. It grows in the poor soils of rocky ridges, such as this one. The pale yellow leaves are those of Chestnut Oaks, Quercus prinus. It is another tree of acid ridgetop soils, and festoons sites like this in abundance. That big, left-listing trunk is a Chestnut Oak. This photo really demonstrates the rocky nature of the gr…

Northern Saw-whet Owl Invasion Update

I made a trip back down to Chillicothe last night, to re-visit the banding station that is focusing on capturing and banding Northern Saw-whet Owls. Thanks, as always, to Kelly Williams-Sieg, Bill and Donna Bosstic, and Bob Placier for being so gracious about hosting guests. With endless amounts of patience, they allow us hangers-on to ogle the tiny hooters, and ask all manner of questions. These small owls of the North have proven to be outstanding avian ambassadors, undoubtedly being the "spark" to who knows how many folks to get them interested in birds. But, the data that is being generated by the efforts of this group and many other banding stations that are part of Project Owlnet is also offering previously unknown insights into a secretive species that we hadn't known very much about.
And man, I was glad some owls turned up last night! We had a rather celeb cast on hand, partly on my invite, and we would have felt bad if no owls showed. They did, fortunately, with …

Green-breasted Mango captured!

Green-breasted Mango, courtesy of Bill Hilton and Hilton Pond.

The Green-breasted Mango, Anthracothorax prevostii, is a spectacular (are any hummingbirds not?) species of Mexico and Central America. In their normal haunts, mangos can be common and don't cause much of a stir. North of the U.S. border, it's a different story.

The first United States Green-breasted Mango was found in south Texas in 1988. Since then, records have steadily picked up in the Rio Grande Valley region. To date, there have been but three records elsewhere in the U.S.; North Carolina in 2000, Georgia just this past October, and the subject of this post - a bird that turned up in Beloit, Wisconsin back in September. All have been juvenile males (the bird pictured above is an adult).

The birding blogosphere has been alive with buzz about the recent capture of the Beloit bird. As it tarried on, frequenting the same feeder where it was found, Wisconsin's famously frosty winter began to set in, as it does ev…

Jasper-Pulaski and the Cranes

Spent Saturday over in Indiana; a state renowned for Bobby Knight and Hoosier basketball, the Indianapolis 500, John (Cougar) Mellencamp, and corn. And, Sandhill Cranes! That's right, the legendary Jasper-Pulaski wildlife area up towards the northwest corner of the state produces an amazing congregation of cranes each fall, as they gather in large numbers before heading southward.
Following is a brief pictorial jaunt through J-P: Either they need to straighten their sign, or I have to learn to stand up straight. Some of my fab cam work may not be up to Ntional Geo standards, but it's good enough for this blog! The woodlands of Jasper-Pulaski were indisputably beautiful this late fall weekend. This small group of Bigtooth Aspen, Populus grandidentata, seemed almost luminescent in the sunlight, their lemony-yellow leaves aglow amongst the muted reds of the oaks.

It isn't the foliage, or even the scenery so much that lures bird enthusiasts here. It is these - four foot tall, seve…

Scaup die-off

On the heels of my last post, about the "Scaup Tracker", both Kathy Mock and Paula Lozano forwarded on a rather alarming article from the Duluth Tribune about a significant incidence of scaup mortality. Read on:

Thousands of bluebills dead since Thursday
Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune - 11/06/2007

Dan Markham and Noel Hill of Duluth were setting up to hunt ducks on Lake Winnibigoshish near Deer River on Saturday when they noticed a dead bluebill on shore. A quick walk along the shore turned up another three dozen dead bluebills.

Waterfowl biologists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimate that as many as 3,000 bluebills, also known as lesser scaup, may have died along the west shore of Lake Winnie.

The die-off began Thursday, said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist in Bemidji. Biologists believe the cause is a microscopic trematode, a kind of fluke, present in snails that the bluebills are feeding on.

Cordts thinks the die-off could continue. “We’re going to…

Scaup Tracker

Yes, it's that time of year. Late fall and cool temps are bringing the scaup streaming down from their northerly nesting grounds. As we speak, scaup - a kind of diving duck, for the unilluminati - are invading the midwest, coming to a water body near you.

We have two species, you know. Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis, which is the common Ohio scaup and under most conditions are default scaup. Then there is the larger Great Scaup, Aythya marila; a hardier beast that rides out the cold waters of Lake Erie winters as if it is nothing, feasting liberally on the Zebra and Quagga mussels.

If you have any interest whatsoever in scaup, you'll want to log onto the amazing new "scaup-tracker". That's right, our friends the scaup now have their own website, developed and supported by our Canadian friends to the north. Good day, eh? Really, this site is quite interesting; nothing to "scaup" at, that's for sure.

To tune in to the amazing "Scaup Tracker", vis…

Ionactis nee Aster

Spent the day down in the extreme southern reaches of the state, hard against the shores of the Ohio River. The trees were looking splendid; the forests were a riot of color. Very little else was, as the flowering plants have largely passed on and out for the season. Even the singing insects have greatly diminished, and with the cold nights fast approaching we'll not hear their serenades for much longer. The view from one of the most spectacular promontories overlooking the Ohio River Valley, near Portsmouth in Scioto County. Yon hills are good ole Kentuck; the Ohio River is smack against their base. Like the massive water body on our northern boundary, the valley of our mightiest river creates its own atmosphere. I took this as a brewing storm bluffed and blustered with spits of rain, while the sunshine poured through in the distance. Nothing much came of the threatening weather, and we remained dry. Did make for some spectacular skies, though.
With the paucity of flowering plants …

Saw-whet Invasion!

Scores of tiny little owls are passing you by tonight. I bet everyone who reads this has passed within a half-mile of a Northern Saw-whet Owl within the last few weeks, if not closer. Yet few of our smallest eastern owl are detected, so adept are they at hiding during daylight hours.
Northern Saw-whet Owls are irruptives; that is, they fluctuate from winter to winter in terms of the number of birds that move south. This is a boom year. All of the stations that are part of a banding network known as Project Owlnet are reporting capturing huge numbers. I've heard that some stations to our north have caught up to 1,200!!! so far this fall. Kelly Sieg, Bill Bosstic, and Bob Placier operate a banding station near Chillicothe that focuses on saw-whet banding, and they've had their best year to date. They opened the nets in mid-October, and have already caught about 50 owls. They'll go to December 10 or so, so the total will soar well beyond the current figure. I would not be surp…